by Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski
Another of those Thorgal books that I’ve had an off-on relationship with over the last 8 volumes. Initially I was sceptical, but with volumes 7 & 8 I found myself succumbing to Van Hamme’s invention within the sword and sorcery genre. (Previous reviews should you wish – Vol 1-6, Vol 7, Vol 8)
Now this one, although it’s rather back to the tried and tested route of bit of sorcery, bit of swords style storyline, I did find myself enjoying it even as I was noting down it’s faults.
The Guardian Of The Keys of the title is a very powerful magical creature, who just happens to take on the form of a beautiful, alluring woman. Wearing her belt of invulnerability/immortality (and little else) she oversees the dimensions, protecting the pathways between worlds from unscrupulous use. And she, like almost every other woman in Thorgal, finds our hero practically irresistable.
And it’s this attraction that explains why the Guardian allows Volsung of Nichor, a creepy little thief transformed into the image of Thorgal, to get close enough to swap belts.
(Volsung finds out the terms of the deal with a very un-dragon looking Nidhogg, who decides to take the form of the Guardian of the Keys here. From Thorgal Volume 9: The Guardian of the Keys by Van Hamme and Rosinski, published by Cinebook.)
Volsung’s transformation into Thorgal is all down to the magics of the dragon Nidhogg who has dastardly plans for the world(s) once he gets his hands on the Guardian’s belt.
But the moral of this tale is never trust a thief as the empowered Volsung/Thorgal goes back on his deal with Nidhogg and, instead of returning the belt, decides to live it up a little. After defeating and nearly killing Thorgal, he kills the Viking chief, declares himself the new lord, abuses Thorgal’s family and generally lords it cruelly over the Vikings.
But a near death Thorgal has a chance at redemption/revenge as he’s met in the halfway world between life and death by a very annoyed Guardian of the Keys. After very swiftly convincing her of his innocence in the whole seduction/theft of her belt episode, the two decide to join forces. From there it’s just the all too simple matter of Thorgal returning to Earth, get the Vikings back onside, hatch a plan to defeat Vorsung and defeat whomever is behind the plot ….. all in the space of just 48 pages.
(Thorgal meets Thorgal/Volsung and discovers that the Guardian’s belt gives the thief a real advantage in a knife fight. From Thorgal Volume 9: The Guardian of the Keys by Van Hamme and Rosinski, published by Cinebook.)
The thing about this particular volume is that the story struggles to even make it to this small page count. It’s very thin and it all races by in a bit of a rush. We seem to just bounce from situation to situation in an all too linear manner, with very little time for anything or anyone besides Thorgal, The Guardian Of The Keys, Volsung and Nidhogg. From the moment Thorgal awakes in the Guardian’s realm after falling victim to Volsung through to the final, brief battle between Thorgal and Nidhogg it’s all too quick, everything too simple. Indeed, the final battle is practically nothing of the sort – merely a bit of a scuffle in the grand scheme of things.
Granted it’s a fair enjoyable, if cliched rush, but I couldn’t help thinking that it didn’t have the invention or the enjoyment of the previous two volumes. It felt a little bit like Van Hamme doing a Thorgal story strictly by the numbers. The art, as usual by Rosinski, is quite a treat though – full of expression and adept at drawing the wonderful Viking scenery. He excels whether Van Hamme’s script is innovative and original or not.
This volume takes us to 15 of the original 29 reprinted by Cinebook. So we’re just over halfway through the Thorgal saga. And although I do have huge reservations still about the whole sword and sorcery genre and Thorgal in particular, even I have to admit that I’ll definitely be staying around to which direction Van Hamme takes this one. I’ve enough confidence in Van Hamme that, even if some volumes disappoint, I know he’s capable of making the Thorgal saga a very entertaining and intriguing whole. At this point I’ve committed too much to the series to give up now.